On the morning of April 13, the newly constructed Saxbys coffee house located on Drexel University’s campus hosted its grand opening at 65 N. 34th Street. Conveniently nested between the Daskalakis Athletic Center and the campus dorms, Saxbys was incredibly crowded for the opening, featuring notable figures of Philadelphia’s top business leaders. Local media and reporters were in attendance as well, with several entrepreneurs taking interest in the innovative student run business. Leading the activities and speeches throughout the event were Nick Bayer, the CEO of Saxbys, Drexel President John A. Fry, the Dean of Drexel’s Close School of Entrepreneurship Donna De Carolis and Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah. Mario the Magnificent, Drexel’s iconic mascot, was also in attendance much to the crowds delight.
The current manager of the cafe, Kelsey Goslin, a marketing major, was on site talking with marketing professionals from the area while also making free samples of sandwiches, bakery items and coffee available throughout the coffee shop. Having been in development for two years, Bayer was ecstatic to finally host the grand opening of his company’s first ever exclusively student-run location. Speaking about his desire to create a Saxbys location for students to use as an experiential learning opportunity, he discussed his history as an entrepreneur starting Saxbys.
“This is a lifetime journey for me, personally; I’ve been an entrepreneur now for 10 years. I started my business every way you shouldn’t start a business. … I figured that one day when my business could get some traction it would be… such an impactful thing for me to give back to the next generation of entrepreneurs to teach them how to do it way better than I could do it,” Bayer said.
Bayer’s plan was to create an environment for young people who were budding entrepreneurs. He wanted to create a space for those students to flourish while they still had time to learn, before entering the job market and the “real world.” However, Bayer encountered a problem while trying to find a university that was bold enough to trust its students in a business partnership such as the one Bayer was proposing.
“I came up with an idea to partner with a very entrepreneurial university that would take a chance on a company like Saxbys and a person like me to be able to open up a Saxbys and let it be exclusively run by students. Many, many schools, probably most schools, would never touch something like that; it’s just too risky. This is the one school that would take a chance on this,” Bayer said. Now, the Saxbys Drexel will be “run by students now, tomorrow, and forever.”
Fry also talked about his hopes for Saxbys Drexel and what it means for the University to have this new partnership develop. “[This partnership with Saxbys] allows us to continue to use this University for the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.” Fry also talked about the new Close School of Entrepreneurship and its importance for young people in our community. “Entrepreneurship is fundamental to the success of our University and to the heart of our mission,” Fry said.
Congressman Fattah also made a few comments about the importance of engaging youth in projects like those offered by Saxbys Drexel. Fattah and Bayer met a few years ago when Bayer came to him as a representative for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The two have appeared to be on good terms ever since.
Fattah said that he is impressed at how much Bayer “has shown, in every way, his commitment to young people even while he’s building his business.” Fattah went on to praise the opportunities being offered to Drexel students able to work with Saxbys Drexel. “By being student run, [Saxbys Drexel] is teaching leadership and management skills that are going to be important for our young people as they take on the reins of leadership. … We need these young people to be able to step up, and this is where it starts,” Fattah said.
Goslin, now in her spring-summer co-op cycle and working as the manager for the cafe described what her co-op experience has been like so far. Goslin found the job listing, she said, among all the other co-op job listings, and her attention was caught by the company name. She had been to a Saxbys for the first time while visiting the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, and fell in love with the coffee there.
“I kind of researched online the company’s core values and stuff and that really spoke to me as well. … It’s to make the community better around them and also to make life better and I love that.” Goslin said she was surprised and nervous when she found out that she would be interviewing with Bayer himself. Goslin expressed that the interview was a great experience: “[For the majority of the interview] he asked me about my personal life, my family, really trying to get to know me, which is so nice. … That drew me in even further because I knew, ‘Wow, they actually care about their employees.’”
The caring and individualized actions of Saxbys are exactly what Bayer hopes to show the community about his company. Although the company is technically a chain due to their multiple locations, Bayer wants to ensure that Saxbys remains true to providing an individualized and unique experience at each of its locations and for all of its customers and workers.
“There’s no Saxbys that looks like this, and there’s no Saxbys that will ever look like this because we design everyone to be unique. We try to solve problems that universities have and Drexel… waned an experiential learning where people could run their own business. It’s sort of a co-op program on steroids. … We could be that solution… and I’m honored to be able to give that to such a great school like Drexel,” Bayer said.
The decor and internal design of the new Saxbys addresses much of the student body’s needs. There is an abundant amount of seating inside, including large tables and smaller side tables and benches for both independent and group study. The cafe is well-lit and artistically decorated, providing bright and stimulating colors that aren’t overwhelming. Decorations include reclaimed pieces from the former University City High School that function as art and seating throughout the cafe as well as several pieces of student artwork. The hours of operation will also be key to making the Saxbys Drexel a popular study space for students: Mondays through Thursdays, the coffee shop will be open from 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. and 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sundays, all prime study times.
In a separate interview with Bayer after the opening events, he exclaimed once more his excitement for having made his dream of an experiential Saxbys location possible. “This is like a dream come true… being able to partner with a university, being able to give students an opportunity that no student anywhere ever has gotten … before, and it’s rare that you get to be a part of something like that. … I’m so honored.”